Don't want to be overly cynical, but this whole article is set up by the choice of a bad case.
As has been true for the last 10 years, if you want silence, your case should accept 160mm tall CPU heatsinks. That would really be the conclusion of the article. Get a case that accepts an HR-02 and a Strix or MSI Gaming 4G and the silent computer almost builds itself.
You're technically correct, but overly cynical.
I took on the project in good faith & when the case limitations became clear, I took them on as challenges. Makes for somewhat more interesting reading than -- A, B, C and voila, there's your silent system!
(Though most of the build guides will fall in this category.)
But even if you're restricted to 330mm height or less, there's a better alternative in the Bitfenix Phenom on the market.
We don't know that yet. We do have a mitx Prodigy build coming (I mentioned this already, I think?) and that is far from a perfect case, though there's no question that a side vent for the VGA card + upright board position & enough height for a tower heatsink (and a tall VGA card as well) have major advantages. I already mentioned that before.
And then there's the Node 304... Yet the built would still be about as quiet as your Micro-ATX gamer, at 1/3 of the physical volume.
It's a mITX case -- we were looking specifically to do a MicroATX gamer.
Designing a PC for low noise can be quite challenge, and combining high-power components with compact size makes it hugely more so. I've been thinking a lot lately about how to design a compact mATX case optimized for high performance and low noise, so it was interesting to read your article. A lot of the difficulty comes from how poorly suited hardware standards are for the cooling needs of modern components; PCI cards, in particular, were never designed for the 200w+ heat dissipation we see with GPUs these days. Simply having the GPU intake facing away from the CPU cooler makes airflow design more challenging in a SFF system. It's a shame BTX never caught on - it went some ways to addressing these issues.
Good to see you here... Dan?
Agreed -- re: poorly suited hardware standards, esp for VGA card.
Don't know how many BTX systems and cases you examined; I was around for all of BTX, examined a handful of mid-tower designs (no reviews) and reviewed a couple of BTX Shuttles. (Search for BTX on the main site and you'll get these walks down memory lane: Shuttle XPC SB81P: Loaded 775 BTX
& Shuttle SB86i BTX SFF system
) BTX was a debacle in execution, with heat from CPU being distributed all over other components & the base noise levels were up 5-10 dB over more mature ATX designs. I suppose if it had stuck around long enough, better implementations might have evolved, but the starting point was very poor, imo. Of course, PSU efficiency was <80%, heatpipes were only just starting to show up in advanced aftermarket designs, noise levels of "standard" systems were amazingly high, and SPCR hadn't been around long enough to influence the industry much.
Your mATX drawings look sharp, but I'm doubtful of the VGA card position. No top vent and not much airflow will get to the VGA cooler fans from the front. We saw this problem with Silverstone's TJ-08E -- heat tends to get trapped between the top & the card. The idea of somehow separating the VGA card & CPU into separate thermal zones makes perfect sense and there must be ways to go farther than what your concept shows.
Finally, we do have an nCase build just about ready to go; you'll obviously be interested in that. Am about to do the final edit on Larry's writeup before it gets posted. EDIT: Done -- http://www.silentpcreview.com/Quiet_Min ... ld_Guide_2
PS -- Thanks for all who point out typos & other errors. They've been corrected.